Finns consider forests as urban parks. The area we visited is well used, with a café and plenty of runners and walkers around. The woodland is managed by the City of Tampere municipality and it is managed for the people who use it. The City of Tampere municipality have a land use plan, and as part of that the local development is managed, as well as operations such as the assessment of the effect of tree cutting. We noted plenty of litter bins but hardly any littering on the ground. There is little bit of graffiti and no dog poo bags left in the woods! Our Scottish urban site managers have been very impressed by the lack of litter compared to Scotland.
While we were there we sat in on a class with children who had additional support needs. The class were learning about Finland’s Everyman’s Right, the code for the outdoors and something the Finnish people are very proud of. Eva, our host, said that this is the basis for outdoor education in Finland; to learn to respect the countryside from the first explorations into it.
The 70-80 year old forest we visited was owned, like many forests in Finland, by a variety of private owners, in this instance including Tampere City Council. Dr Jenni Kokkarinen, lecturer at Tampere University of Applied Sciences provided the group with an introduction to forestry practices in Finland. To all intent and purposes Finland’s timber industry features four main tree species – Norway spruce (Picea abies), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), silver birch (Betula pendula) and aspen (Populus tremula).
The next stop at Seitseminen was a visit to a patch of old growth forest – perhaps the catalyst for the Park’s creation – and a chance to see what “original” forest might look like in Finland. Surprisingly, we found it strikingly similar to non-old growth forest! Low species diversity in the canopy (Scots pine, Norway spruce, aspen, silver birch, grey alder), all the trees were telegraph pole straight with no large side branches and hardly any “characterful” trees, as we get in many Scottish woods (e.g. Granny pines).
Over two-thirds of Finland is forest cover. Much is owned by private persons. Accessibility is also important because many people are able to use the forest, even if they do not own any forests themselves. People are able to use the forest and the wildlife within it as a renewable resource for wood products, hunting and foraging. Above all, most Finnish people strongly value the link with nature.
We learned that Finland has forty two National Parks and we were told that in total they receive around 4 million visitors per year. By contrast Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (LLTTNP) has over 4.5 million visitors.
EVO is a hiking centre and forestry college in Kanta-Häme. As well as teaching forestry skills from an economic, recreational and conservational point of view, EVO offers opportunities for members of the public to engage with nature. For example, the public can pay to spend time with animals- there are numerous cows that the public can see and tend, while there is also a meat and grain store.
Nature is often fragile, however, and especially here in the North can be slow to recover from damage. With the freedom to enjoy the countryside comes the obligation to leave the environment undisturbed and preserve Finland’s rich natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.
This is a joint report written by Ian Bray (Scottish Natural Heritage), Georgie Brown (Galbraith), Estelle Gill (Scottish Natural Heritage), Michelle Henley (Scottish Wildlife Trust), Andrew James (Historic Environment Scotland), Gwen Raes (The Woodland Trust), Adam Samson (Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park).
Our first day saw us travel 50km north of our base in Tampere to Seitseminen National Park. Founded in 1982 and covering an area of 45.5km², the National Park is managed by the state owned enterprise Metsähallitus. Seitseminen National Park frames a mosaic of landscapes with a diverse mix of habitats which include; ancient forests, esker ridges & open bogs.